Author: Carys Evans

Top 7 winter reserves to visit this Christmas!

Winter is in full-swing, the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping.

It can be very tempting to hide away from the elements until spring, but there are so many beautiful sights to be seen even in the winter!

Christmas can often come and go in a blur of delicious food, alcohol and Christmas television. This Christmas why not bring the family together for a frosty, festive, winter walk?

With over 110 nature reserves to choose from, you really are spoilt for choice!

Here are our top 7 reserves which are definitely worth a visit this winter:

Ystradfawr Nature Reserve, Ystradgynlais, SA9 1SE

Ystradfawr by Carys Evans

Previously a site of extensive coal mining, this wonderful reserve is an excellent example of how nature can reclaim the landscape. Now home to an array of wildlife from Woodcocks and Snipes to Marsh Fritillary Butterflies this reserve really is a sight to behold.

Accessible via a Sustrans cycle track, Ystradfawr is the perfect winter reserve offering family friendly walks and exquisite views across the valley. Wander through the woodland for the chance to see winter bird visitors feeding on berries and discover hints of the reserves mining past.

Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve, Pembrokeshire

Teifi Marshes by John Thomas

If you’re looking for a day out for the whole family, look no further than the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve. Situated on the former course of the Teifi, this vast reserve offers a range of habitats making it the perfect spot to see all manners of wildlife.

Look out over the meadows and see the curious faces of Deer grazing whilst hundreds of Starlings dance above your head preparing to roost amongst the reed bed. With excellent access across the reserve, a visit to the Teifi Marshes is a must whether you’re on foot or cycling!

When you are done exploring the reserve, little ones will love playing on the adventure playground and ending the day with some delicious home cooked food in the award winning Glasshouse Café. For those keen wildlife watchers, we recommend staying at Oak Tree Cottage to get some early access to the reserve. Perhaps you’ll spot some Otters!

Port Eynon Point, Gower

Port Eynon Point by Lizzie Wilberforce

What better way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the festive season than the seaside? Part of the Coastal Path, Port Eynon Point offers incredible vistas out to sea. It is the perfect base for a spot of sea watching with the whole family. Interesting birds are seen year around; if you’re lucky you may spot the enigmatic Oyster Catcher!

Wrap up warm and head to the Port Eynon Point, you will not be disappointed!

Parc Slip, Bridgend

Parc Slip by Meg Howells

Parc Slip is an accessible and family friendly reserve all year around, boasting a range of habitats and  walks for all to enjoy. With the shorter days and low sun of winter, visitors to Parc Slip can enjoy spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the reserve. The sun casts an orange hue, shadows dance before your eyes as Finches fly overhead.

Families can enjoy a mud-free walk along the many cycle paths that run through the reserve. For the more adventurous members of the family, why not take a walk through the woodland?

No visit to Parc Slip is complete without a bite to eat and a warm drink in our Visitor Centre café. With views across the reserve, the café is the perfect spot to look through your photographs or just enjoy each others company.

We will be completing numerous improvements to Parc Slip over the next 12 months, you can read about them here: https://www.welshwildlife.org/wtsww-news/exciting-improvements-for-parc-slip/

Y Gweira, Llantrisant

Y Gweira by Lorna Baggett

Y Gweira is a beautiful place to visit in the winter months. This little nature reserve nestled in the corner of Llantrisant common has a diverse array of plantlife and is home to invertebrates such as butterflies and dragonflies, as well as reptiles and breeding birds like Meadow Pipit and Skylark. At this time of year walking through the marshy grassland you will be surprised by Snipe who’ll spring from under your feet. Early morning there is often mist sitting on the meadow, and if you go there during a frost or in the snow, the colours of the hawthorn berries and the lichens on the trees will contrast starkly with the white landscape.

Cwm Clettwr, Tre’r Ddôl, Ceredigion

Cwm Clettwr by Em Foot

Take a walk on the wild side this winter at Cwm Clettwr. See the sunlight dance between the trees as the birds soar above your head. Cwm Clettwr offers the perfect winter walk providing accessible paths and a circular route for all to enjoy. Listen as the river Clettwr splashes down through the old moss and fern filled oak woodlands, you may even spot the bop of the characteristic Dipper! Thanks to vital conservation work, Dormice thrive at this site. Take a minute to enjoy the spectacular views down the valley and out to sea across Borth Bog.

Poor Man’s Wood, Llandovery

Poor Man’s Wood by Lizzie Wilberforce

This Oak woodland was originally donated to the town of Llandovery in the sixteenth century with the condition that the people of Llandovery were able to enter the woodland and take any dead wood for fuel providing they can carry it on their backs. Hence the name – Poor Man’s Wood.

Visit this little piece of local history and take in the spectacular views across the upper Towy valley. Bask in the presence of giant Oaks, and Wild Service Trees some of only a handful within the county! Be sure to visit the rustic hide for a glimpse of some elusive wildlife!

Find a reserve near you and have a WILD Christmas!

Have a WILD Christmas with 12 Days Wild!

To many, Christmas is a time for spending time with family with good food in front of the television – and there’s nothing wrong with that!

But consider making your Christmas a little more wild this year. Keeping up with a daily dose of nature can be tough during the festive season, but with a whole host of health benefits you’d be silly not to get your nature fix!

The Wildlife Trusts are launching our 12 Days of Wild Christmas which aims to provide a little mid-winter inspiration every day from Christmas Day to 5th January.

For those of you who took part in our 30 Days Wild challenge in June, 12 Days Wild is not to be missed!

The idea is simple: one random act of wildness everyday for 12 days.

To spread a little nature magic over your Christmas, sign up to our campaign here and keep an eye on our social media pages throughout the 12 days for some wild inspiration!

We would love to see what wild things you get up to this Christmas – join the conversation on social media using #12DaysWild

 

Feed Rudolph (and the birds) this Christmas!

Rudolph and friends won’t be the only hungry ones this Christmas!

It may be tempting to buy ready made reindeer food, but beware! Many shop bought reindeer food are packed full of glitter which if ingested by wildlife can be harmful. So why not get creative this festive season and make your own reindeer food?

Not only is it festive fun for the whole family but it also provides the perfect fuel for reindeer and birds alike for flying high and keeping warm in wintery months!

Perfect recipe for Rudolph

Mix up the following nice ingredients, but skip the naughty items!

Nice

Raw porridge oats and sunflower seeds can make up the bulk of the reindeer food, these offer essential fat and carbohydrate content for keeping warm on those frosty mornings in the North Pole!

Add Nyjer seeds for some darker colour and sparkle! This oil rich seed is perfect for keeping up energy whilst Rudolph and friends are busy delivering presents all around the globe!

Add a splash of blue(berries) or apple to provide the perfect winter treat!

Naughty

Now, there is a misconception that reindeer food needs to be sparkle to be seen from high in the sky. This is not the case – in fact glitter, sequins or anything made from plastic can cause stomach problems for most animals if eaten. Glitter is also a microplastic! The pieces are so small they could cause a problem for the environment for a long time. Cake sprinkles or edible glitter are also no good as they contain lots of e-numbers.

 Making sure you’ve skipped all the naughty items – you’re reindeer food is ready to go!

On Christmas Eve, sprinkle the food into a tray or bowl and Rudolph and friends (and the birds) will have a festive treat!

Living Seas Wales 2019 Overview –South and West Wales

The Living Seas Wales Project is a collaboration between The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) and North Wales Wildlife Trust (NWWT) and has been funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery Players the project provides Welsh people and visitors with the opportunity to learn about and enjoy our marine environment, through a range of events, activities and volunteering opportunities.

The project was launched at the Volvo Ocean Race in June 2018 and has since gone from strength to strength.

In 2019 WTSWW’s Living Seas Wales Team have –
• Trained 100 new Living Seas volunteers
• Led 30 volunteer events including Dolphin Watch and Shoresearch Surveys
• Run 12 family-friendly events such as Night Time Rockpooling and Eggcase Hunts
• Celebrated National Marine Week

Our Living Seas Live! Roadshows made a big splash over the spring and summer months, with the team visiting The National Botanic Gardens, Swansea Waterfront Museum, The Sea2shore Festival and 6 other locations in south/west Wales.

We engaged with nearly 2,500 people, inspiring them to love our seas and to become involved in marine conservation.

In June we teamed up with the Chester Zoo Expedition Team who helped to support the work of our Living Seas team based at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre. Chester Zoo staff conducted Dolphin Watch and Shoresearch surveys, beach cleans and helped to organise and run our World Ocean’s Day celebration event in Aberystwyth.

Dr Sarah Perry, Living Seas Manager for south Wales says:

“Our seas are at a turning point and through the Living Seas Wales project we are able to inspire people within our Welsh communities and visitors to our coastline to take action for marine wildlife and to become involved in our vital marine conservation work.”

Laura Evans, Living Seas Wales Project Officer for WTSWW says:

 “We’d like to say a massive thank you to our amazing team of volunteers, without whom our marine conservation and engagement work would not be possible.”

Keep a lookout on the Living Seas Wales website for roadshows, events and volunteering opportunities in 2020, the Year of the Outdoors.

Meilyr Tomos spreads Christmas cheer at the Welsh Wildlife Centre!

You may remember the devastating news that the Kingfisher Hide at our Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve had been burnt down in an act of vandalism.

In response to this sad news, we immediately launched our hide appeal in order to raise funds to replace the hide. Since the launch we have been overwhelmed with support from the community.

If you have visited the Glasshouse Café at the Welsh Wildlife Centre recently you may have noticed the sweet sound of Christmas carols. Meilyr Tomos has been playing Christmas carols on his keyboard in order to entertain visitors whilst raising money for the hide appeal.

In just a few sessions, he has raised an incredible £236!

We would like to thank Meilyr for his time and kindness and would also like to thank those who donated for their generosity.

Diolch yn fawr Meilyr!

You can donate to the hide appeal here

A Year in the Valleys

As we head towards January I find myself feeling baffled at the passing of another year. Where did the time go? Working for a nature conservation charity means time and resources are always precious and there’s plenty to do! But regardless of how much I have on my ‘to-do list’, nature (and people) can be unpredictable, so a storm, a landslide, or a thoughtless act of vandalism on the nature reserves can suddenly take priority and require extra time. On the plus side, it means that there have been new obstacles and opportunities every year so far!

To help me understand where my time has been spent this year I decided to quantify just some of what’s been going on in the valleys. But before I list these achievements I need to explain that this has only been possible because a group of amazing people have donated their time and energy to the Wildlife Trust, and without them we wouldn’t have been able to achieve half as much for our environment. I can’t express enough how much I value the time which my volunteers have given for free, but I hope this list goes some way towards showing how  they have helped to make our nature reserves a special place for wildlife and people.

  • 176 days of volunteer time have gone into conservation work on 4 nature reserves in the valleys this year.
  • 1.1 Ha of willow and conifer scrub has been removed from the Heathland at Llyn Fach to prevent this special habitat from being lost.
  • 830m of footpaths were widened and 5 boardwalks repaired at Taf Fechan to make the nature reserve more accessible.
  • 4,000 m2 of Himalayan balsam has been pulled up at Pwll Waun Cynon to allow native wildflowers the light and space to grow.
  • 977m of fencing has been replaced or repaired on the nature reserves to allow us to use grazing animals to help manage habitats.
  • 156 hours were spent surveying bird boxes to monitor the breeding bird activity at Taf Fechan and to watch for Pied Flycatchers.
  • 6 trips were taken around Llyn Fach lake to monitor the floating footprint rafts.
  • 1 bee bank and 3 hedgehog homes were constructed.
  • 4 reptile surveys, 1 orchid count, and 1 butterfly transect were carried out.

If you would like to get involved in the new year take a look here

Words by Lorna Baggett, Valleys Reserves Officer

General Election 2019: The results are in – so what does it mean for nature?

Ratty, Mole, Badger & Toad campaign for a Wilder Future
Concern for the environment is at a record high. Over a quarter of Britons now cite it as one of the top three issues facing the country. The amazing uprising of young people this year sparked a real awakening which political parties responded to at this election. Across the board, the manifestos contained more prominent, detailed and ambitious green commitments than ever before.

As they form a new majority Government, the Conservative Party has some pretty significant green manifesto commitments to deliver on. As part of developing “the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”, they have committed to introducing an Environment Bill and establishing an Office for Environmental Protection, investing £640 million in natural solutions to climate change, achieving net zero by 2050, moving to an agricultural payments system based on ‘public money for public goods’, introducing a legal commitment to fish sustainably and setting up a new £500 million fund to help protect our oceans.

Action to meet these commitments can’t get started soon enough, but here are three things we believe the new government must prioritise to tackle the ecological emergency:

Establish a mutual and legally binding commitment to non-regression, so that environmental standards will rise, not fall

During the election campaign, the Conservative Party committed to bringing back the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Christmas. This Bill must include provisions that ensure high environmental standards are maintained and cannot be weakened in the future.

Urgently bring back the Environment Bill to kick start nature’s recovery

This Bill must lead to ambitious long-term and short-term targets to drive nature’s recovery, an Office for Environmental Protection with the necessary independence and powers to hold government to account, and, crucially, it must enable the creation of a Nature Recovery Network to restore and expand natural habitats across the country.

Introduce an Agriculture Bill that pays farmers for helping wildlife and for restoring our natural countryside

Public money should be used for the good of everyone. An agriculture policy based on the principle of public money for public goods would help create a landscape full of connected habitats and help restore our natural countryside.

Elliot Chapman-Jones, Public Affairs Manager at The Wildlife Trusts says:

The year ahead will be critical for nature.

On the world stage, the UK will host the UN climate change summit (known as COP26), where nature-based solutions to tackling climate change will be a key focus, and world leaders will also gather in China for a crucial UN biodiversity conference to set targets for nature’s recovery across the globe.

Global leadership and major domestic decisions by the new Government, such as the future of HS2 and the Ox-Cam Expressway, will define the future of our environment for generations.

Nature’s in crisis and the need to reverse its decline is more urgent than ever. It’s up to all of us to make sure that as the new Government gets going, election promises aren’t forgotten, manifesto commitments are strengthened, and we push all of our MPs to act with the urgency and ambition needed to meet this crisis head on.

 

Read what we’re doing to secure a Wilder Future here.

 

Remembering Peter Davis MBE

Peter Davis MBE

1929 – 2019

Although known to many as the ‘The Kite Man’ receiving an MBE in 2006 for his services to Red Kite Conservation, his first involvement in Wales was as warden of Skokholm from 1954 to 1956, particularly noteworthy being his detailed studies of the European Storm Petrels nesting on the island.

Skokholm was a stop one might say on a northward passage for Davis was previously warden of Lundy from 1951 and subsequently Fair Isle from 1957. In 1963 no more islands, but to the British Trust for Ornithology as Migration Research Officer, though he quickly chafed at a desk job in Tring and so in 1966 to Wales.

Having been appointed field officer in mid-Wales for the then Nature Conservancy his prime responsibility being to develop the Red Kite conservation programme, work which proceeded so very successfully with his colleague Peter Walters Davies. In 1966 just 21 pairs nested in Great Britain, all in mid-Wales. Ten years later 33 pairs and ten years further on 58 pairs, with over 100 pairs in 1993.  Now some 200 pairs nest in Wales the success of Kite conservation can be attributed to the dedication of Davis, in 1996 a founding trustee of the Welsh Kite Trust, and his co-workers.

Davis as Ceredigion Bird Recorder, a post he held until 1995 was one of the editors of the three Dyfed Bird Reports covering the years 1967 to 1976 and joint editor with Peter Hope Jones of the first Welsh Bird Report also 1967. As joint author with Hywel Roderick who died in 2008 far too young he ensured the Birds of Ceredigion, a sumptuous volume was published in 2010.

In 2007 Davis received an MBE for his work on the Red Kite and in 2014 a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Welsh Ornithological Society.  He is survived by his wife Angela who accompanied him on Skokholm and three children.

Words by David Saunders 

What would we do without our volunteers?

The focus has been on maintenance work on the Brecknock Nature Reserves this month.

Apart from managing habitats by controlling brambles and scrub that encroach in to open meadows, this is the time when we get a chance to check, repair and replace fences and other infrastructure. This work takes many man hours so winter is when we really appreciate the effort that many of our volunteers put in to help us maintain our reserves. They are willing to turn up and do quite physical work, often getting wet, cold and muddy in the process. We have a great bunch working with us, some for a decade or more!

Cae Bryntywarch is a small reserve consisting of a traditionally managed meadow with an area of wet woodland.  To maintain the meadow it is grazed by a couple of highland cattle.  Unfortunately the fence was deteriorating and many of the fence posts needed replacing along the long western boundary. After a couple of aborted dates we finally had two good sessions here and got the majority of the work done. New volunteers Simon and Andy showed us how useful they could be, especially at wielding the mell to knock the posts in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pwll y Wrach is a woodland SSSI reserve and is one of our most visited.  Again the fence needed maintenance, this time to keep neighbouring cattle out. Many volunteers, along with Steph, have put in extra hours removing the old fence posts and wires on very difficult terrain to get ready for a contractor to install a new stock proof fence.  This included coppicing several trees.

Ystradfawr is a large reserve near Ystradgynlais which used to be a coal mine.  It consists of several meadows linked by woodland. Work has begun to control the brambles and scrub encroaching on the area above the cycle track. The meadow is beginning to look like a meadow again! However we had to say goodbye to Rosemary and Rum for the winter. These Exmoor ponies have been grazing this area to help keep it open. Also Steph has continued her tree felling to open up the access track and we completed the temperature monitor checks on part of the old mine.

 

Exmoor ponies on Ystradfawr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks guys, we couldn’t do it with out you!

If you would like to volunteer in the Brecknock area, please contact Pauline on 07957 292235 or email p.hill@welshwildlife.org.

Christmas Event at Llandyfeisant Church

Longstanding members of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) and supporters who live in Carmarthenshire may already be aware of the story of the beautiful little Llandyfeisant Church, which lies on the boundary of our Castle Woods nature reserve in Dinefwr, Llandeilo.

The church has a long history within the Dinefwr estate, and served a tiny parish, with church services being attended by the family and staff of the estate as well as residents of just one or two local roads. It was abandoned as a parish church in 1961, and subsequently deconsecrated, though it remains a listed building. The church had long had periods of both splendour and decline over its long history, much depending on the varying generosity of its patrons. As its use as a parish church declined during the 20th century, so did its condition once again.

Before

WTSWW (then the West Wales Trust for Nature Conservation) took on the woodlands that became Castle Woods nature reserve in 1979. By 1980, they were asked if it would undertake the restoration and rehabilitation of the church, which was then in a sad state and quickly disappearing under encroaching vegetation. It was considered, in their words at the time, a ‘daunting task’, but the Trust and its dedicated local volunteers agreed, with the objective of turning it into a visitor and education centre. The Trust took on a lease, from the Church in Wales, for the building and graveyard. Ian Watt, a local volunteer, drove the campaign, with assistance from Manpower Services work teams, grants from the Prince of Wales Committee, Cadw, Dyfed County Council, and many other donations. The conversion was completed by mid 1986.

For a number of years the church was run as a popular visitor centre. However for various reasons it had closed by 1994. Amongst the changes leading to this was the acquisition of the main part of the estate by the National Trust and the opening of the main drive to the public, where previously they would all have accessed the woods and castle via the church.

The church then entered another period of decline, with dry rot now occurring in some of its timbers, and the building gradually suffering from being closed up. WTSWW found itself in a difficult situation; bound by a lease requiring repairs to be undertaken, but with insufficient tenure to support funding applications.

In 2018, local resident Beth Davies set up a petition to save Llandyfeisant Church, from which grew and active and engaged Facebook community. A group of interested local residents formed, with a view to supporting the church’s restoration. Both the Church in Wales and WTSWW now sit on this committee as ex officio members. The group has now formally constituted itself as the Friends of Llandyfeisant Church, and thanks to the Church in Wales and the Friends group, progress is being made towards the restoration of the building. Fundraising has begun in earnest.

The Church now

You can follow the work of the Friends of Llandyfeisant Church on their website or via their very active Facebook page

WTSWW are working with the Friends of Llandyfeisant Church to organise a festive  event inside the church, on Sunday 22 December (11am – 2pm).

The church will be open to view with a few activities and some mince pies available! You are also welcome to talk to us about future plans.

Please note that there are no conveniences at the church and no parking on site either, so please walk to the church leaving you car in Llandeilo town or in the National Trust car park.

For more details contact Lizzie on l.wilberforce@welshwildlife.org

2020 Wild Stays

Wake up with wildlife and explore the great outdoors in 2020 with our Wildlife Trust Oak Tree Cottage and the Welsh Wildlife Centre!

Oak Tree Cottage – (the Cwtch) is the perfect Pembrokeshire holiday retreat for a couple or a family looking for something a little bit quirky in the New Year!

The Cwtch offers guests a cosy open plan living and kitchen area, one double bedroom, one twin room with bunk beds, bathroom with shower, off road parking, glorious walks with sweeping rural views.

Located in the heart of the beautiful Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve, the Welsh Wildlife Centre is but a stone’s throw away from the cottage. It really is the perfect base for those wanting to connect with our amazing Welsh wildlife and explore the great outdoors.

Numerous bird hides found on the reserve allow for the opportunity to see a diversity of wildlife in a range of habitats, although patience is always key! Watch otters at dawn, badgers and deer at dusk, kingfishers on the river and a wealth of flora and fauna during the daytime.

Wanting something a little more…active?

Check out the Welsh Wildlife Centre page on our website for a list of events and activities for the whole family to enjoy!

So whether it’s a tranquil retreat, or an action packed getaway, the Cwtch and Welsh Wildlife Centre are waiting for you!

To check availability or book please visit: https://www.welshwildlife.org/oak-tree-cottage-cwtch/

‘The Beatles’ raise over £900 for Skomer Tractor Fund!

You may remember reading about the little book of Beetles that was raising money for our Skomer Tractor Fund, if not you can read the original article here.

Peter Brown, known to many in Pembrokeshire as a teacher, biologist and nature enthusiast is now in his eighties. Undiminished by advancing years he shares his enthusiasm for beetles in his latest book, and those of you of a certain age will instantly recognise the World famous zebra crossing close to Abbey Road Studios on the back cover – and for that matter the Fab Four on the front – beetles that is… Yes, Peter’s book ‘The Beetles’ (The Fab Four Thousand) is a collection of poems detailing some of our disappearing native beetles, with illustrations from Fran Evans.

Peter’s clever yet accessible poems capture the nature of British beetles (timely as all insects are in serious decline). The words are wonderfully complemented by Fran’s beautifully colourful, yet accurate, illustrations. Together the book is a real delight – amusing and thoughtful. For the young it offers an easy guide to the wonders of our native beetles and for the rest of us a joyful nod to the Beatlemania of the 1960s. A treat for all ages.

We were delighted to receive an incredible £901 to go towards the Skomer Tractor Fund!

Sarah Kessell, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales CEO said:

“We love Peter’s delightful poems! We are very grateful for the incredible donation and would like to thank Peter and Fran who both donated their work, Signspeed who donated the setting, editing and print of 600 copies and The Darwin Centre who funded a free copy to every school in Pembrokeshire. Thanks to Peter’s donation, we have been able to purchase a new vehicle for Skomer Island. We simply couldn’t deliver our vital conservation work without the support of people like Peter. Thank you!”

If you haven’t managed to get your hands on a copy of ‘The Beetles’ , there are still a few available in our Welsh Wildlife Centre gift shop.

Do you have a fundraising idea? We would love to hear it!

Get in touch with Carys by emailing cm.evans@welshwildlife.org